This afternoon we pack our things say good bye to our furry little friends. We’re headed to the mainland in a couple of hours so we can catch our flight to Guatemala tomorrow. Though we’re sad to leave our favorite little buddies and the tranquility of the island, we’re so excited to move along to a new country! Stay tuned for adventures in Antigua.
Some Critter Highlights:
- The dogs tearing ass after the horses that came down the street every day
- Feeding the “Locas” (a.k.a. the Crazies, a.k.a. Lara and Mara, a.k.a. the outside dogs) – see video below
- Noche (the cat) springing off the kitchen chair out of what appeared to be a dead sleep to pounce on and eat a mouse
- Dancing with Miko (the inside dog)
- A gecko-free house, thanks Noche
- Miko trying repeatedly to get in the bed during a lightning storm
- Noche curling up between our legs at night
- The dogs gnawing the skull of some horned animal. Gross. And furthermore, where did that thing come from?
Feeding the Locas:
This is what greets Mike every morning at breakfast time. Crazy for kibble? Youbetcha. In fact, every time our little friend on the left starts barking, she really won’t stop until we renact a scene from Anchorman and I ask her if she’s eaten a whole wheel of cheese. It’s absurd. It’s dogsitting. You’ve got to love it.
Isla Mujeres is a pretty small place. The island is about 5 miles long, with the north end containing the town. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what this place looks like. How I managed to shoot photos without people in them is beyond me. This place is usually all a’bustle with beach-going tourists.
Since apparently I feel compelled to put paint on things, I seem to be leaving a trail of art behind me. I left some bottles and painted palms in Todos Santos and some paintings in Pennsylvania. Once we arrived here on the island, I picked up a small notebook, which over the past 6 weeks I filled with about 60 paintings. I’ll carry that with me so that I can continue to fill it. However, the larger things, I plan to leave behind… as strange little tokens of… well, art.
So here on the island, I’ll be leaving 2 large painted bean pods and 1 bottle.
I write this post as I hear the sounds of the killing towel snapping downstairs in the living room.
“Uh huh… [SNAP!] I don’t think you know who you’re messing with…”
Normally, we’re not really fans of killing things. Normally. But mosquitoes are a different story. It would be just dandy to open the back door as the sun sets and graciously announce “there you go! you’re free now!” as they swoop down one final time and give us little mosquitoey kisses and wave good-bye as they fly outside to pursue the rest of their week-long lives. Wouldn’t that be just grand?
Right. So back to the killing towel.
After being badgered night after night by mosquitoes buzzing in our ears and feeding on our bodies, Mike decided that the combination of slapping ourselves in the face and ears all night and pulling the sheet over our heads in an 80F bedroom was not a sustainable solution.
I would like to add that it was also an ineffective solution. I had 8 bites on my face, 2 on my arms, 6 on my right foot, 2 on the inside of my pinky finger (??!), and not very many hours of sleep. And Mike had it even worse.
In addition to his litany of itching bites (which for some reason come into full itching bloom after the sun sets, i.e. “the itching hour”), he also had a fever which may or may not have been from the tick that was wedged in his abdomen 2 weeks ago. The tick’s mouth bits still remain in the bite site — and with them is wedged a burning desire to destroy all biting insects that enter the house.
So two days ago in a feverous (literally) fit of that-is-IT!-it’s-time-to-KILL-some-MOSQUITOES! Mike grabbed a hand towel, summoned all of his junior high locker room towel snapping powers, and blasted 2 or 3 of them. And that was that. He had the hunger. It was time to queue the music and do some killing.
Despite the gaping screen-less hole of the cat door and the fact that we’re living on a tropical island full of insects, our house is now nearly mosquito free. That’s right. That’s my man.
Oh kitties. Though normally after a night of killing mice and geckos, Noche the cat will curl up on the sofa or a kitchen chair to catch up on her cat napping. Lately though, she’s been itching for a more exotic nap location. Today this location is somewhere under the stairs. She’s a skilled little explorer because that space is packed pretty tightly. We wouldn’t know she was in there except that we occasionally hear a little paper fluffing and some licking sounds. Oh kitties…
According to my star-reading neighbor, the planets are aligned here for me to do a lot of work. I think she’s right about that because I’ve been cranking stuff out. Of course, it helps to have a tranquil house and a solid internet connection. Now, if only I could break away from my table here to go explore the island before we head off to Guatemala next week. You know what they say about all work and no play.
Today we thought we’d head over to one of the snorkel parks to see what kind of fish we’d see. A snorkel park is a place where you pay to put your stuff in a locker, have a little something to eat, and play in the water. Since we’re sneaky cheapskates, we bypassed the whole locker situation and just swam in from down the shore. Muhahahahahaha! But really, it’s okay. This is all public water, you only pay to use the facilities. Why am I still talking about this?
Anyway, we swam in and believe it or not, there are bigger fish here than down the shore where we swim. Last year our friend Y spotted a stingray and we followed him for several meters. Mike and I were hoping to see him again today, but alas we did not. However, while Mike was off chasing something, I found myself suddenly surrounded by fish the size of my head. At first I thought “yay! neato!” and then I thought “um, why are they circling me??” and “do those pointy little beaks have big teeth in them?” It started to get a little creepy. So I swam away. Yes, that’s right.
Later it occurred to me that people feed these fish Cheetos and crap. So that’s what was going on. They were on a Cheetos shakedown mission. Phew…?
It was still a pretty cool thing to experience. And fortunately for me, the water was getting a little rough, so we decided to swim back home. But there was plenty of cool stuff to see in the coral grasses along the way.
We’ve mentioned the snorkeling that we can do with just a short walk from the house where we’re staying before. But this time, we have a waterproof camera. Yeah! The beach where we snorkel is down a big rocky hill. Once we’re at the water, we need to walk along the shoreline until there is a break in the reef.
And then we get in! This is what it looks like in the water.
There aren’t many big fish in our little reef neighborhood, but it is still lots of fun to swim around.
The south end of the island is a stark contrast to the north end. On the north you’ve got the sandy beaches, music, and palapa bars of Playa Norte. On the south you’ve got rocky cliffs, beautiful views, and lots of tranquility. Last year we visited the park on the south point, Punta Sur, and we weren’t really impressed. Of course, we were standing in the free area swatting away swarms of mosquitoes while shooting quick glances at some rusty modern art in the grassy, mosquito-y-er pay area. For the record, “swarm” in this instance equates to about 10 mosquitoes at a time per bare leg in about 1 minute. LOTs of mosquitoes. So why would we pay to get closer to the art and surround ourselves with even more mosquitoes? We left saying that Punt Sur was pretty meh.
This year, since the mosquitoes are under control, we decided to check out Punt Sur again. We wandered into the sculpture garden along the paths and as it turns out, it was awesome. There are walkways that wrap around the edge of the island. When the water is rough, the waves crash up onto the walkways. We meandered the whole way around the southern tip and found ourselves standing on the eastern-most point in Mexico. Well how do you like that?
Punta Sur is really beautiful. I’m glad we gave it another try.
After our dual tick-removal adventures yesterday (the dog) and today (Mike), it’s nice to have a tranquil moment to get a little work done.
There are worse ways to end a day of travel than loafing in the ocean. And by “day of travel” I mean: easy breakfast, pack our things, catch a 10 minute taxi to the ferry station, wait 10 minutes, ride a ferry over beautiful water for 20 minutes while two guys play guitar and pan flute music, get off the ferry, walk a few blocks to our room, have a little lunch, put on bathing suits, and walk a few blocks to the beach. Not bad at all for a day of travel. Easy breezy.
Yesterday was still pretty easy, but less breezy. Though we lucked into 2 tickets on the soonest bus out of Valladolid, we almost didn’t make it. It was that dang ticket-taking guy at the ADO bus station. When it was near boarding time, we went over to the line to get on the buses. We were told to wait, so we did, when it looked like what might be our bus was boarding, we went back over to him. He told us our bus had left and the next one was in 4 hours. This made us feel quite angry. So we figured we’d just get on the next bus we saw with our destination on it, and the oh-so-helpful ticket dude told us we couldn’t do that. I was just beginning to have loud angry bad Spanish words with this ridiculous man when he pointed to another bus and said it was ours. He was totally fucking with us the whole time. Awesome. Thank you. I love that. LOL!!!!!
Then after getting on the bus, I confirmed with the guy in the seat next to me that we were both trying to go to the same place. We were. Okay good, that’s settled. Then we had about 2 hours on the road, so he told me a bunch of scary stories about being stabbed and how some guys had been after him. Delightful. Tell me more about that. Mike was across the aisle with headphones on. Headphones. Mike keeps telling me that if I just wore my headphones, I could much more gracefully avoid these situations…
He is right about that. But anyway, despite my expansive digression, my point is, it’s nice when things are easy. Like today. Next on our list: finding a decent margarita.
As you may have heard, in the 1500s, the Spanish went to Mexico and shot a bunch of people, converted the rest to Catholicism, and then built cities and churches on Mayan ceremonial sites before taking chocolate with them back to Spain. Valladolid is one of those cities. And that’s where we’ve spent the last week. Before the 1540s, Valladolid was a Mayan town and was called Zací. The Mayan culture remains in the form of little villages outside of town, nearby ruins, and some sac bes (messenger roads) that connect the ruin sites — but the city itself is full of Spanish colonial architecture.
The city is also full of narrow one-way streets on a nearly perfect grid, with a highly organized street naming system. After spending so much time on dirt roads, Mike and I were highly impressed. I mean, buildings here have actual number addresses. What is this craziness?!
Some highlights of our time in downtown Valladolid:
- having amazing raw foods, reiki, and a personal tour of a private cave and cenote by our guesthouse host
- gourmet breakfasts everyday at our second guesthouse
- swimming in the downtown cenote (yup, the Yucatán is riddled with these things)
- getting a cab for 15 pesos ($1.25 USD)
- sampling tequila that tasted like burning firewater, only to discover later that it was moonshine, bah!
- sampling tequila that was infused with habanero peppers and finding that it was like drinking liquid habanero
- seeing the 500 year old artifacts that people pulled out of the cenote under the monastery (mostly rifles and tea cups)
- watching a flatbed truck with Jesus on the back zig zag through the streets and shoot fireworks
- sampling 12 kinds of Mayan chocolates and deciding that we don’t really like Mayan chocolate
- getting a plate of vegetarian food from who we thought might be the Mexican Godfather at a loncheria
So what does it mean to be vegetarian in Valladolid? Normally it means your menu options are limited to cheese and eggs with a little lettuce. But sometimes, just sometimes, you get to meet the Godfather and have him do a favor for you.
When we walked into the mall looking for lunch, there were a couple of restaurants with short or no lines, and the guys were hanging over the counters, flapping menus around wildly, shouting at people to get them to order food. And then there was this place. There was no menu flapping and the line was about 10 people long. Hmmm. The good food must be there.
When we got to the window, there was an old man rooted in his chair behind the counter. He had a notebook and a pen. And despite the flurry of young people prepping food and slinging trays all around him, he was calm and unmoved by the chaos. We’re pretty sure he was the Godfather.
Mike told him we’re vegetarians and we’d like something simple like tortillas, beans, rice, vegetables, etc. He listened, thought for a moment, then nodded his head, and informed us as to what we’d be eating in a very Godfatheresque this-is-what-i’m-going-to-do-for-you kind of way. It was awesome.
He gave us a slip of paper with simply #18 and “plato de veraduras” (plate of green vegetables) written on it — we still had no idea what to expect. Several minutes later, they called our number and handed us a tray loaded with a huge plate of vegetables (lettuce, onion, platanos, french fries, cheese, lime, rice, tomatoes, and radishes), a basket of 6 corn tortillas, a crock of and beans, hot sauces, napkins, etc. Whoa! We were fully loaded. And that’s what the Godfather did for us.
We ate our fill and then went along our merry way. Of course, we’ve since told ourselves that he’s not actually the Godfather and we’re not actually in his pocket now. We think…
Just yesterday, I heard about a woman who was terrified of cats. Not big cats, not lions and tigers, but regular domestic kitties. She had checked into a hotel, saw a cat stroll through the lobby, screamed bloody murder, and hid entirely behind her husband. Really? how odd… I said. Deathly afraid of cats?… I said. How can a person be so afraid of something?… I said.
Ask and you shall receive. Today it was my turn to be very afraid around people who were not afraid and to have to deal with that.
And that’s how I open a story about exploring a cave. If Mike were writing this, the beginning would sound more like this: OMG! I got to explore a cave! Yeehaw! Woop! Woop! [backflips] And I got to SWIM in a CAVE CENOTE!!!!! [more backflips and bouncing all around like Daffy Duck] OMG!! BEST DAY EVERRRRRR!!!!!
Okay, you’re right. That sounds nothing like Mike. You’ll just have to trust me that he was totally thinking that as we set off with our guesthouse host to her new farm property that contained not only a cenote, but a cave cenote. And that the 3 of us had the full intention of crawling inside that thing.
When I was young I used to seek out caves and rare waterfalls in the woods of Pennsylvania. I’d love to climb in those tight rock spaces and be surrounded by the moss. But somehow between then and now, I developed this very strong DO NOT WANT feeling to those situations. As we stood at the hole of this cave here in Mexico, I reminded myself that the only thing to fear is fear itself. In other words, being in a cave is not scary unless I’m telling myself that it is scary. Oh yes, I am so wise…
As Mike and our host descended, and I followed, I was working hard to actually live out this wisdom. These awesome rock formations are not scary… these ancient and beautiful walls have no evil intentions of keeping me here… there is enough air to breathe in here… I won’t actually get wedged in anywhere…
Deeper into the cave, beyond the reach of daylight, the stalactites were really beautiful. Some of the rock surface was covered in shiny amber droplets and other reflective flecks of metals and gemstones. The silence was also incredible. When we all stopped shuffling our feet (and I could control my desperate, rasping, panting breath), there was no sound at all. Nothing. We had to be careful not to touch the stalactites, or they would stop dripping, forever. Caves are really special places, and it will take me a lot more practice to be in them without sweating profusely and struggling to breathe.
We came back up to the light again before heading down into another chamber to swim. Our host happily trotted down the path, so excited to share her amazing cenote with us. Mike was beyond delighted to follow her into the dark water. I was honored to be there, and trying very hard to play it cool. I’m not crazy like that woman who’s afraid of cats… right?? But I was already exhausted. Facing fears is hard work.
The pool of water was pretty small, but there was a big hole in the wall that implied that the cave was much larger, just under the water. Our host plans to hire some divers to explore it more. She hopes that this tunnel will lead to another open chamber, which is the case in many cenotes. She and Mike speculated on and on about what an awesome adventure that would be. Mike wanted to pop into a hardware store to get a long rubber tube so he could get the diving party started.
I considered getting in the water (the ultimate scary), but decided that sitting next to the water was good enough. The bats kept me good company while Mike and our host splashed around, exploring the crystal clear water and the rock walls of the chamber. Later when I was feeling a little like a weenie for not getting in, Mike reassured me that it was pretty tight in there, and I would not have enjoyed myself. I didn’t miss anything that would have served me well.
When we all climbed back up the ladder, into the sunlight, and out of the cave, it was interesting to be back in the living world again. Birds, bugs, plants, a hot sun… it was such a contrast to the cool tranquility of the cave.
Would Mike go back? Youbetcha. He’d move right in if we didn’t have plans to be house sitting in a few days. Would I go back? Yep. This kind of thing takes practice. We all have fears. It would be silly to pretend that we don’t. And after today, I’d like to high-five that cat fear lady because she is afraid of cats and she stayed in the hotel anyway.